Part of the fun of being involved in a blogger community is the ability to interact with other writers and try a few projects out to see how they work. My friend Doug, one of the new additions to the UCB, writes over at Baseball Geek in Galveston and he proposed a question swap, where I answer a question of his and vice versa. While Wes usually takes his turn in the rotation on Saturday mornings, we’ll skip his start to keep him fresh and take a look at what Doug threw out there.
Here’s the question: If the Cardinals were going to the wild-card play-in game, which opponent would you most like to see them play? Assuming everyone is healthy (that is, seasonal injuries don’t impact–like Andrew McCutchen–though folks out for the year like Jaime Garcia could still be discarded from the discussion), which team do you think the Cardinals would have the best time with?
First off, let’s reiterate that if you had the power to do this, you might try to see if you have the power to have the Cardinals avoid the wild-card game entirely. I’ve hated that game ever since the concept of it came up (to be fair, I’ve not liked the wild card either) and you want to avoid it at all cost.
Since that really ruins the question, though, let’s take a look at the teams in contention for the wild-card. Obviously, the Cards are unlikely to play Milwaukee unless Pittsburgh or Cincinnati jumps them both, which could happen, but I’d like to think if Milwaukee doesn’t win the division, the Cards do. Other than that, let’s take a look at them in order of less likely to most likely to be that other wild card.
Los Angeles: The Dodgers currently have a 3.5 game lead on the Giants, but it feels bigger than that. If the Giants came back and took that division, I’d be pretty stunned. If it happened, though, I think the Dodgers would be the team I’d least want to see in a one-game playoff. I mean, they could even save Clayton Kershaw and run Zack Greinke out there and the Cards would still have a tough time. Baseball would love to see a Kershaw/Adam Wainwright battle in this game, but as a fan wanting to see your team move on, that’s not exactly how you draw it up.
Washington: The Nats are up 4.5 games on the Braves, mainly because the Braves are falling faster than the reviews for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Currently the Nationals have a similar record to the Cardinals, but their division isn’t quite as tough, what with the Mets, Phillies and Marlins all under .500. You wouldn’t necessarily want to see Jordan Zimmerman or Stephen Strasburg with your playoff life on the line, but the Cards have matched up with them before. They wouldn’t be my first choice and we aren’t likely to have to worry about it, but they don’t scare me as much as others.
Atlanta: An eight game losing streak (as of Friday morning) has them 3.5 out of the wild card. Obviously, they could turn things around and get back into the mix fairly quickly, so ruling them out is foolhardy. If they matched up with St. Louis in this game, there’s no doubt they’d come in with quite the chip on their shoulder, remembering 2012 as they do. That extra momentum might be enough to ride them past the Cardinals. If the Redbirds could miss Julio Teheran, I’d be more interested in seeing them, but they are still at best the middle of the pack if I’m making out a list.
Cincinnati: Cincy’s within shouting distance of the wild card even though they are fourth in the NL Central. They have to do some work, but I kinda hope they fall short. The offense isn’t intimidating, though it gets stronger when Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are counted into it, but running up against Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos, with Aroldis Chapman waiting in the wings? The margin of error might be tiny. Over five games or seven games, I’d not worry about them as much, but in one game, I’d want no part of them.
Pittsburgh: With Francisco Liriano not being the Cardinal killer he was last year, facing the Pirates in one game wouldn’t be quite as devastating. Still, any team with McCutchen on it should be someone to worry about, even if they didn’t do anything at the trade deadline. The Pirate bullpen isn’t necessarily the strength of their team either, which might allow for a late Cardinal surge.
San Francisco: Currently, the wild-card game would be a chance to get a little revenge for 2012 and the NLCS. Then again, we know how good the Giants have been in even-numbered years lately, so running into them here in 2014 could be a problem as well. They still have Hunter Pence to hit one ball three times and a healthy Buster Posey, so you never know what kind of magic they could conjure up. That said, save for Tim Hudson, the pitching staff’s not been what it has been in the past. They aren’t a team you root to face, but neither is the sky falling if you do.
So, looking at that, let’s rank them, from “would put in the game” to “not a chance”:
Head over to Doug’s blog to see what I asked him and what he responded with!